U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

Defendant Accidentally Confesses to Judge in Personal Letter

From the 'what-was-he-thinking file,' Jaime Bauzo-Santiago gets an 'A' for honesty but an 'F' for felony stupid.

The defendant thought it would be a good idea to ask the judge in his criminal case for a new lawyer. So he made his request in a personal letter, signed and delivered through the prison mail system.

In that letter, however, he also admitted his crime. He appealed his conviction, but he'll have to work out a different response over the next 15 years.

Spoiler Alerts

In United States of America v. Jaime Bauzo-Santiago, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims that the judge erroneously admitted the letter at trial. The "slip-up," of course, was the defendant's.

In 2012, a Puerto Rico police officer saw Bauzo pull a pistol out of his waistband and toss it into a black SUV. The officer approached and asked Bauzo whether he had a license to carry.

"When Bauzo said no the officer walked over to the SUV, opened the door, and spotted the gun on the floor of the driver's side of the car," wrote Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson for the court.

Borrowing the familiar film critic's caution, the appellate judge laid out the story with two more spoiler alerts before she got to the "THE" slip-up. After explaining problems with his lawyer, Bauzo wanted to say something in his letter to the judge before sentencing.

"Always Accepted My Responsibility"

"I want to take advantage to notify you that I, Jaime Bauzó Santiago have always accepted my responsibility as to guilt, the only thing that I ask of you is that the time for the weapons law crime be a reasonable one," he wrote.

Unfortunately, Bauzo had taken criminal responsibility before. He was a career offender under the Armed Career Criminal Act because he had at least three violent felony convictions.

Applying 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1), the trial judge gave him the mandatory-minimum sentence of 15 years plus a sentencing enhancement. He was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison, and will likely get time off for honest behavior.

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